Interview: Anvil on Smoking Weed, What Derailed Their Career and Meeting Clint Eastwood

Canadian heavy metal band Anvil was headed for super stardom in the early 80s, touring with the likes of Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and the Scorpions. Then suddenly, they disappeared in to obscurity. Now with the release of the new documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, directed by Hollywood screenwriter Sasha Gervasi, the group may finally find the success that has eluded them - even though they've kept playing and recording all this time. Formed when they were teenagers in the 70s, guitarist and lead singer Steve "Lips" Kudlow, now 53 and drummer Robb Reiner, 51, are currently working on their 14th album. I sat down with the duo for an exclusive chat for the Huffington Post.

Zorianna: What was the dream for you guys back in the 80s and how is it different today?

Robb: It's the same now as it was back then - fame, recognition, music.

Lips: We've always continued to play live, but the difference now is making $500 for a gig versus $5000.


Zorianna: You're experiencing the success in your fifties that you almost had decades ago. What might have happened if it had all worked out when you were in your twenties?

Lips: We probably would have self-destructed. When you're young, you take everything for granted; you think life lasts forever and you think that life is filled with endless opportunities. The real truth is, it's not. Opportunities come and go.

Zorianna: Is there a place for metal music today? It's not exactly radio friendly.

Robb: Metal was always there. Metal never goes away.

Lips: The radio has nothing to do with metal's existence or non-existence. It's for trend only. For us it's a lifestyle. We have a worldwide following, particularly in Europe and Japan that never went away. There are always people to play for.

Zorianna: Was there a particular album or band that introduced you to metal when you were kids?

Robb: Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin. Then we started creating our own brand.

Zorianna: Many heavy metal musicians appear in your documentary to say how much they were influenced by Anvil including Lars Ulrich from Metallica, Lemmy from Motorhead, Slash from Gun N Roses, Tom Araya from Slayer and Scot Ian from Anthrax.

Robb: We were pioneers. We were ahead of our time. Great, great musicians. Maybe even the best. We had a style and sound that was unique.

Lips: We were doing something that had never been done before. We came about it in pure innocence. It wasn't like it was contrived in any way. We just did what came natural and we got noticed quite quickly.

Zorianna: Lips wearing bondage gear and playing guitar with a dildo certainly helped too! Do you remember the first time you looked at each other on stage and thought, 'Yeah, it's happening! We're gonna make it. We're on our way!'

Lips: We were playing Quebec City, late 1977. It felt as though we were gonna make it. I can still remember looking at Robb doing his drum solo thinking, 'Look how amazing this is!'

Zorianna: So what happened? Where did things take a turn?

Lips: It had to do with deciding who was gonna manage us. It derailed everything. We didn't blame ourselves because when you have the wrong help around you, a lot of bad things can happen. And that's exactly what happened.

Zorianna: Do you think that bad management was that the one singular thing that went wrong in your career?

Robb: Absolutely. There's no question about it.

Zorianna: Explain.

Lips: Our manager pulled us out of our initial record deal and didn't replace it. Then he held on to our contract so we couldn't get another contract at a very crucial, pivotal point in metal history. We're not the only band that he did it to. One of the greatest guitar players in the world, known as Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush - was derailed too. To this day you cannot buy Frank Marino CDs. It's a real tragedy what he did to him. But you get in with the wrong people and you got problems. And they're life-long lasting.

Zorianna: When did you realize that this was happening?

Lips: We realized it during our first year with him.

Robb: The metal sound we pioneered became very fashionable and commercial only a couple of years later. We were there in the beginning.

Zorianna: Do you feel any ill will towards him?

Robb: I don't.

Lips: He should take his bottom lip over the top of his head and swallow. I've got nothing good to say about him.

Zorianna: Can you tell us his name?

Lips: That's irrelevant. We kept going and the vindication is the fact that we're here today and we're making it now. The failure fueled us to keep going, to prove that we are good. That and the fact that all of our peers and musicians have always told us that we have something special.

Robb: Yeah, that validates us.

Zorianna: What were the bleakest times for you?

Lips: When my marriage broke up in the 90s and Rob's father passed away, and the transition between record deals.

Zorianna: That all happened at the same time?

Lips: Yeah.

Zorianna: So what kept you going?

Lips: Having each other. You believe in yourself and that's all you can do.

Zorianna: Describe a low.

Lips: Working for Tim Horton's Donuts. They should all burn down. I hate their coffee and working for them was the worst nightmare of my life - even though I only did it for two weeks. But I had no choice. I had to make money. I worked from 5 o'clock in the morning until noon. Horrible!

Zorianna: How did you deal with those lows?

Robb: I found a nice party house. That's how I dealt with it.

Lips: You can't run away from your identity. Even if I went to another band, I'd still be Lips from the band Anvil. I've spent my entire life trying to be that, that's what I am. There's nowhere to run.


Zorianna: So now that the documentary has come out, you're touring to promote the film, you're playing at this years' Download Festival and Rocklahoma and there's a book out with a foreword by Slash. Finish this sentence for me: 'I can't believe we met....'

Robb: Clint Eastwood! He didn't believe that my name was Robb Reiner.

Zorianna: Did he know who you guys were?

Robb: No. (laughs)

Lips: We were at the Spike TV Awards and he was there. He was at the after-party and we got our picture taken with him.

Robb: I went up to him and said: 'Hi, I'm Robb Reiner." And he said, "Cool, man." But he didn't believe me. He had this look in his eyes, like 'Yeah, right.'

Lips: We also met Mickey Rourke. I said : 'You wore a hair net for one scene in your movie, I wore a hair net for 8 years! (In the documentary Lips works delivering food to school cafeterias.) Then Robb goes, "Tell me, did you die at the end of The Wrestler? and he goes, 'I hope so.' (They laugh.)

Zorianna: Now that you're garnering interest from concert promoters, what's the ideal touring package for you?

Robb: Whatever that package is, I want Motorhead on there.

Zorianna: Hypothetically speaking, if you were only allowed to perform one Anvil song, what would it be?

Rob: I need a list to look at to really give you an honest answer. But off the cuff? Jack Hammer.

Lips: Mothra.

Zorianna: When we see you both on stage, is it who you really are, or do you don personas?

Robb: Lips becomes a character I think for sure. Myself, I'm the same guy.

Lips: It's an extension of my own personality, sort of an alter ego.

Zorianna: What demons do you exorcise up there?

Robb: I'm a demon up there every time!

Lips: My demon is hating to have to do a regular day job. Being up on stage really helps me forget I have a life like that - when I did have a life like that. I find complete contentment and happiness when I'm playing in front of an audience.


Zorianna: What would make you guys randomly break out in to a song?

Lips: Usually a joint. You smoke a nice doob and all of a sudden you start imagining stuff. That's the truth. To be honest about it, I don't think we've ever written a song (without being stoned.) Marijuana, for me in particular, releases my creative juices. It doesn't work well for performing, but for creating nothing works better.

Zorianna: Are you sober on stage?

Lips: I'm sober on stage, absolutely.

Zorianna: What about you Rob? Are you sober on stage?

Robb: Nope. (Being high) is a normal state for me.

Zorianna: Are you high right now?

Robb: Yeah, as a matter of fact I am.

Zorianna: Are you high right now Lips?

Lips: No. If I get high, it will be after the show.

Zorianna: What do you like about getting high?

Robb: It's relaxing. It's focusing.

Lips: Pot is great for the abstract, for when you don't have to be regimented and for when you don't need parameters. When you're creating a song, there should never be any parameters, so being high is okay because your mind can wander all over the place.

Zorianna: Other than a few occasional tokes, there wasn't much pot smoking in your documentary.

Robb: There was tons of it. I smoked a lot of pot. That's all I do. I'm a straight guy, but that's what I'm in to. I don't do coffee, I don't smoke cigarettes, I don't do any alcohol. I'm straight. But pot? That's the thing. I enjoy it. It's a good thing. More people should indulge.

Zorianna: We also watch you fight a few times in the film as well. Have you guys fought a lot over the years?

Robb: We've only had a few blowouts in our whole friendship. Maybe half a dozen. They happened to catch a couple on film during the making of the documentary. There was a lot of stuff that was going on at that time.

Lips: It had more to do with (their manager during the documentary,) Tizianna (Arrigoni) than us - promised tours and promised money that all fell through. You end up letting it out on each other.

Zorianna: But it's not uncommon to see decades of friendship go down the tubes over some fight.

Robb: Well, maybe that's still coming. (They laugh.)

Zorianna: What do love most and least about each other?

Robb: His mood swings I hate. There's maybe 300 or 400 a day. I love the kid part about him - the enthusiastic, optimistic, hyper kid that I initially met when I was a kid myself.

Lips: I love the way he plays drums. He's fuel for me to create and try to blow him away. I gotta come up with things that motivate him. It's my fire. I think that's what I probably love the most - coming up with things that bring out the best in him.

Zorianna: And least?

Lips: Oh boy! His stubbornness. Sometimes he's hard to convince of things. I can see something plain and clear and I try to tell him and sometimes he won't listen. And I can see that it would be a lot better for him but he doesn't see it the same way.


Zorianna: Did you both feel things would be different after the documentary came out?

Robb: I always thought it would, but I had no idea. But Lips knew everything. He had this uncanny energy....

Lips: I knew from the first moment when Sasha told me he was going to make this documentary that it was going to be one of the greatest documentaries ever made about rock music.

Zorianna: Why?

Lips: Number one, I'm an optimist. Number two, I'm just the guy to deliver that kind of performance because I'll tell you anything you want to know, plus what you don't want to know. And that's just the perfect character to make a documentary about.

Zorianna: You really bared everything.

Lips: I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. It was the truth. We all have crushed dreams and crushed egos. Every person has to put up with shit but it's how you put up with it. (In the documentary) I was showing the world and I didn't mind showing the world.

Zorianna: Why should the world see it?

Lips: People need to learn more about how to appreciate what artists are and what we go through and what it takes to be an artist. It's so easy to walk into a music store and (mimes picking up albums and tossing them aside) say: 'That's shit, and that's shit.....' When you do that, you're throwing somebody's dreams in the garbage, you know? So you have to have a coat of armor, a really thick skin.

Zorianna: As a band, where do you feel most appreciated?

Robb: Europe. They've always loved our band. Maybe it's because Europeans are a bit more connected with art.

Zorianna: Where do you feel most unappreciated?

Lips & Robb (without missing a beat): Canada.

Zorianna: Really?

Robb: Yeah, our home country. It's embarrassing to have to say that.

Lips: We're proud to be Canadians but Canadians are not proud of us.

Zorianna: What makes you think that?

Robb: Canadians have never gotten Anvil. Maybe that's it. I have no other idea.

Zorianna: What goals do you still have to achieve with music?

Robb: We need to tour the world until we get tired, and have the most fun we've had in our whole lives. And maybe load up on our bank accounts a little bit more. And keep enjoying what we've been doing for the last 30 years.

Lips: Yeah, get paid for what we are doing.

Robb: Money would be a good thing.....

Zorianna: So five years from now.....

Robb: Hopefully rocking harder than ever and being stable financially in our personal lives.

Zorianna: Looking back at your lives, the failures and the near-successes that never quite materialized and are now starting to come to fruition - do you think that everything that happened to Anvil happened for a reason?

Lips: Evertything happened for a reason. Absolutely.

Robb: Yeah.

Lips: It feels as though my whole life was pre-planned before I even realized it. I've done a lot of soul searching, a lot of analyzing, even my position in my family - being the third born out of four kids. There was gap between my sister and I, which was six years. That made me become somewhat like a first born. So I had to not only be a leader, but I had to take a lot of ridicule from my older siblings. And because of that, it's a perfect combination to be a great frontman.

Zorianna: And Robb, you're okay with him being the leader?

Robb: Yeah, it was pretty much decided a long time ago that he would have that role.

Lips: We have the same goal. We've always had the same goal. What's different is our approach on how to get there. We might have a difference of opinion on how to get to that same goal but as long as the goal is the same, everything's good.

Zorianna: So you must have pretty good dreams at night nowadays.

Robb: I dream everything from making a great painting to having wild sex, which seems to never stop, and blowing 20,000 people away up on stage. I've been dreaming that last one for many years. It's quite recurring.

Zorianna: What is your mantra? Any words that you live by?

Robb: 'I woke up this morning.'

Lips: 'It's a good day.'


Anvil's Lips, G5 and Robb with reporter Zorianna Kit in Hollywood.